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Amy Hardcastle: Leeds want to do Rob Burrow proud in Women’s Challenge Cup final

Amy Hardcastle (centre) says Leeds will be inspired by the memory of Rob Burrow when they face St Helens on Saturday (Martin Rickett/PA)
Amy Hardcastle (centre) says Leeds will be inspired by the memory of Rob Burrow when they face St Helens on Saturday (Martin Rickett/PA)

Amy Hardcastle says her Leeds team-mates are determined to do Rob Burrow proud when they bid to stop St Helens from claiming a fourth straight Women’s Challenge Cup triumph at Wembley on Saturday.

A day of tributes to Burrow – who died on Sunday after a four-and-a-half-year battle with motor neurone disease – will have personal significance for a number of Rhinos players as they look to lift the trophy for the first time since 2019.

And the importance of the occasion is not lost on Halifax-born Hardcastle, who grew up inspired by Burrow’s Herculean exploits in a Rhinos shirt, and believes they are the kind of memories that could help give her side the edge.

Leeds Rhinos v St Helens – Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup – Final – Wembley
Amy Hardcastle is relishing the prospect of facing her former club St Helens again (Nigel French/PA)

“I watched rugby growing up and saw Rob play,” Hardcastle told the PA news agency. “He was a phenomenal athlete, and the culture at Leeds was created by legends like him.

“We’ve got a lot of girls who are from Leeds in the squad, and would have looked up to Rob as a role model. We’ll be there together as a club. We want to do everyone proud, and do it for Rob.

“If we question ourselves with negative thoughts, we’ll remember why we’re doing it even more. It might give us that one per cent extra that we need as a team and as individuals to get us through.”

A minute’s silence in tribute to Burrow will be staged before both the women’s and men’s finals, while a minute’s applause will also take place in the seventh minute – in honour of the number seven shirt he made his own at Headingley – of all matches on the day, which also include the schools and 1895 finals.

The 35-year-old Hardcastle was part of the Saints side that won the Challenge Cup in 2022 with victory over Leeds at Elland Road – before switching clubs and tasting defeat in the first Wembley final last year as Saints strengthened their grip on the trophy.

Both sides go into the game with four wins and one loss from their five Super League games so far this season, with Saints narrowly getting the better of the Rhinos in their most recent meeting late last month.

But Hardcastle believes a new-look Leeds side, which blends new faces with the likes of experienced duo Caitlin Beevers and Zoe Hornby, has what it takes to finally divest their rivals of a title they have held since 2021.

“To play anyone at Wembley is a great feeling but to be able to go up against Saints again and have the chance to stop them winning four in a row is exciting,” added Hardcastle.

“We’ll never forget last year but we’ve been there now and we know what to expect. For the younger ones, it probably won’t feel as scary. I believe if we turn up as a Leeds team like we have been doing, there’s no reason why we can’t have that success.”